Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

Submit your own Cost of Living survey

Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 3rd December 2021

฿34 to one US Dollar
฿45 to one Pound Sterling
฿38 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.67 THB to one Philippine Peso

Ricky

Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 35,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I earn 30,000 baht a month as the only foreign teacher at a small Thai school and I do about four hours a week at a private language school in the evenings for 300 baht an hour.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Very little. If I'm left with 5,000 baht then I would consider that a decent month. I seriously don't think I've ever had more than 50,000 baht in my savings account at any one time and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a worry.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 5,000 baht a month for a studio apartment in a fairly newish building that has gone rapidly downhill in the past 12 months. I'm probably the only foreigner here amid all the Thais living two and three to a room. In the early days, I used to try and befriend as many neighbours as possible because I just thought it would be a good idea to have Thai friends (practice the language, etc) Wrong! It wasn't long before I was constantly getting tapped up for short-term loans which were rarely paid back. And if it's just a few hundred baht, you often feel embarrassed asking for it and have to chalk it up as yet another loss. Now I just drift in and out of the building like a phantom, keeping my head down and limiting my social interactions to a nod if anyone says hello. Thai 'friends' from the lower rungs of the economic ladder can be bloody hard work.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I take the bus to and from work. The bus stop is virtually right outside the apartment building and it's a five-minute ride to school. So this is just a couple of hundred baht a month.

Utility bills

Water is about a hundred baht and electricity comes to another thousand. I try to avoid using the air-con whenever possible to keep the costs down.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I find it very difficult to keep the food and supermarket costs down but you've got to eat, you'll always need cleaning stuff for your apartment and toiletries like shaving gel, razors and deodorant I find very expensive here. I can rack up 10,000 a month on this category easily and that's without even venturing into the likes of KFC, Starbucks, etc. On 35K a month you just can't afford those Western fast food prices. Thai food is simply much better value.

Nightlife and drinking

I haven't been out for a beer for the best part of two years (since Covid hit) and I guess I've got out of the habit now. I'll sometimes buy a couple of cans from 7-11 while I'm enjoying my usual evening in with Netflix but that's as far as my drinking goes nowadays.

Books, computers

I download reading material for free and my trusty 5-year-old Lenovo laptop is still going strong.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I live from month-to-month, there's certainly no hiding that fact. I'm a lot better off than many other people though. I can feel the desperation around me as many of the residents in my building have lost jobs, struggled to get benefits from the government, etc. At least I'm still working and can pay my bills.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Oh, Thai food without a doubt. You can pick up a decent meal on my neighborhood streets for 40 baht and carry it home in the little plastic bag. A couple of minutes in the microwave and that's your evening meal sorted.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

More than what I'm earning. Another 10-15,000 baht would be nice. I'm sure you can live on far less out in the rural towns and cities but you need 40-50K in Bangkok as an absolute minimum I would say. I've been working in Bangkok for five years now and I'm seriously wondering if it's time to move away to somewhere in the north-east perhaps, where the money is bound to go further.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ricky for a rather sobering cost of living survey. That's a very interesting point you bring up about getting 'tapped up for loans' and I'm surprised in a way that it's never been raised before. We all know how many lower income Thais use loan sharks so who could resist a nice interest-free loan from the friendly foreigner who lives down the hall? You don't want to be that man.

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.   


Peter

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 245K

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

180k salary plus 65k housing allowance with free schooling for our two young sons. My wife is a stay-at-home Mum.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I put 100K into mutual funds back in the USA.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

65K per month. We use the full allowance for a place near Terminal 21 with panoramic city views from the balcony. This rental fee includes a full-time maid/nanny to help the wife look after the boys.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

The school provides a transport service for staff and students and it costs 2,000 baht/month. For everything else we use taxis so let's say around 5,000/month.

Utility bills

Those are included in the 65k rent.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The maid does the supermarket shopping and cooking, which comes to about 20K/month. We're suckers for fine dining and there's plenty of that in Bangkok. We spend another 20K/month there - guilty as charged.

Nightlife and drinking

My wife and I still like to party despite our advancing years. Before the plague we could easily blow 5,000 baht on a night out. Let's say 15K/month for this category.

Books, computers

We brought four laptops with us from the US - $600 each - so nothing coming out of the salary there.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Brilliant. The rest of the monthly budget goes on activities for the boys and regular weekend trips to the islands. It's impossible to maintain this standard of living in the US while investing $3,000 each month.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Taxis are incredible value. You can cross the entire city for around 300B. Trendy rooftop restaurants in New York cater only to the elite, however, the common man can access them in Bangkok. And weekend getaways in paradise locations are within range of most budgets.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Poverty? 30k
Survive? 50k
Middle class lifestyle? 100k
Upper middle class? 200k

Phil's analysis and comment

You must feel like a millionaire Peter living in Bangkok on that sort of salary. I'm guessing you must work at one of the top international schools and although I'm sure you work hard for the money, qualified teachers are certainly well rewarded.


Rob

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 148,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

The vast majority of my income is from my salary. I also sell teaching resources on TES which is a nice little earner, bringing in a few thousand baht each month just from uploading a few resources I have made for classes. I also make a bit of dividend income from investments, but i haven't included that.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'm pretty fortunate to be able to rent my house out in the UK so that ensures that most costs back home are covered. Most months I am able to put 60 - 70K away. That goes into a pension, a few individual stocks and a couple of index funds that tick away at 9 to 10% a year. I think it's quite important to invest the money rather than let inflation eat away at it.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 15,000 a month in a brand new condo that has just opened in my area. I have a great room, gym and pool. That is one of the best things about living in Bangkok, you get real value for money in terms of accommodation. It's very much a renters market so there is plenty of room for haggling.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

3,000 baht or thereabouts. I have a bike, E-scooter etc, but it's more convenient to car share when going to work, especially if you're not particularly an early riser!

Utility bills

About 2,500 baht a month. Water is about 500 plus 2,000 for the electricity. The totals have been a bit more in recent months though with remote teaching and not wanting to melt sat in front of a computer.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Around 10,000. For breakfast I go cheap and just get stuff like cereal, bread etc and lunch is very affordable at school. In the evening, it's nice to go out. Monday to Thursday, I do cheap Thai restaurants which are no more than 300 baht for me and my girlfriend. Then I'll have a couple of treat nights, which normally involve some good Western food or a decent restaurant at a shopping mall. I'm trying to cut this expense and have recently invested in a rice cooker to take advantage of some of the
good food you can pick up at markets.

Nightlife and drinking

My clubbing days are long gone but I do enjoy a beer after things like football, cricket, seeing friends etc, - so probably around 3,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

I have a work computer but I do buy the odd book for my Kindle. So around 1,000 baht a month.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Fantastic. I was working at a 6-day-a-week boarding school in the UK, having to do a full teacher timetable, sport and house duties. Bangkok is much better on so many levels. The work-life balance is great, as is the cost of living (especially if you are fortunate enough to get into a good international school). With the money you're able to put away here, it's quite feasible to knock 5 to 10 years off your retirement age if you save and invest your money wisely, all while living the dream and having a great time.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Food. For me I think some of the best food here is the stuff you get by the side of the road or in small, Thai owned restaurants. 60 to 70 baht will normally get you something pretty delicious. Get your trainers on and do some exploring. Build up a good knowledge of restaurants in your local area.

The parks and communal spaces are great too. Things like cycle paths (the green lung), public parks such Nongbun and Rama 9 are free and great places to work out, go for a run, walk etc. The same can be said for sport. It's worth trying to develop some hobbies as playing football on decent 4G pitches can be really cheap if you find a friendly bunch of guys to play with regularly. You really don't have to spend much in Bangkok or Thailand to have fun, but I guess that depends on what you're into.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Probably around 40,000. I worked in Thailand nearly 10 years ago as a TEFL teacher, which was fine, but I could rarely save any money and was living pay check to pay check. The best investment you could make here is to do one of these new QTS qualifications that can be done based in Thailand or something similar.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Rob. A few teachers have said to me on social media that these surveys where teachers are earning north of 100K per month are just not reflective of the jobs and salaries posted on Ajarn. My answer is that they don't need to be. This cost of living section simply shows what some teachers can and do earn in Thailand. Rob was once a 40,000 baht a month teacher but he studied for better qualifications and secured himself a better job. Isn't this something for 40K a month teachers to aim for?  


Stewart

Working in Central Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 200,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My salary is 149,000 per month and the housing allowance is 52,000 per month, so the total is just over 200,000 pre-tax. Each year I am also paid a 10% bonus from my employer.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

After tax and housing, I am left with around 125,000 and I can usually save around 85,000 per month but slightly more during Covid. 10% of my monthly salary goes into a provident fund in Thailand. This comes out pre-tax and is managed by an investment fund. It saves me a little on tax each month. The rest of my monthly savings goes into my Thai savings account which I tranfer back to my home country each year.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a condo in Thonglor and pay 45,000 for a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 145 square meter unit. It is in an older building but the unit itself has been completely remodelled and renovated to a European standard. There are all of the usual amenities such as swimming pool, gym, games room, etc.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I have an old scooter and I spend around 300 baht per month on fuel. This is only really used to get to work and back.

Utility bills

Electricity - 2,000 baht
Internet and sim card - 900 baht
Water - 100 baht
Cleaner - 2,000 baht
Netflix & Spotify - 400 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to cook from Monday to Thursday and eat out from Friday to Sunday. Supermarket shopping is around 1,000 per week. Eating out comes to probably around 10,000 per month.

Nightlife and drinking

Pre-covid I would go out quite a lot but this is limited at the moment and saves quite a bit of cash. At the moment, most nightlife involves going to friends houses for drinks but I rarely drink midweek due to starting work early and finishing late each day.

Books, computers

Very little, but I will usually buy a number of books each year at the Neilson Hays Library book fayres.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Excellent. I earn a similar amount to what I did in the UK but the benefits such as housing, flight allowances, medical insurance and a substantial bonus means money goes much further in Bangkok.

I can travel, eat out and attend events without worrying about money and am lucky enough to be in this position. Thailand is a great place to work if you have the relevant experience, education and qualifications and can lead to a fantastic standard of living.

I also enjoy the social aspect of life in the city with regular events at the British Club and various balls throughout the year.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Transport is very good value, compared to the UK. Taxis are cheap. I'm not a huge Thai food fan but but that can be very cheap as well.

Holidays in Thailand can also be great value with some great deals at the moment due to the current situation. Flights abroad are also usually excellent value due to the number of options at Suvarnabhumi.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

To survive, if your employer pays your housing then not a huge amount as that is usually the biggest cost. Possibly around 35,000 but it wouldn't be a great standard of living. However, Bangkok can be as cheap or as expensive as you would like it to be.

I certainly wouldn't think about moving to the city for less than what the same job would be paid in the UK. Bangkok is as expensive as anywhere in the UK except London and the South East.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Stewart. So this is one of those teacher packages where you have to spend the 52,000 baht housing allowance. You can't find somewhere nice to rent for let's say 25,000, and pocket the remaining 27K. Shame that because although I'm sure your condo is amazing, you could probably manage a downgrade and be quids in. I'm surprised your water bill is as low as 100 baht though in such a swanky place. Needless to say, it sounds like you have a great standard of living. 


Erik

Working in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Monthly Earnings 40,600 (after tax)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

All of my income comes directly from my full-time teaching salary. I don't do any extra classes or after school tutoring. While that is a great way to make extra cash, the students already have an immense amount of schoolwork. Between their English classes, Thai classes, after school lessons and other extracurriculars, I believe the students should spend less time studying.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Typically between 10-15k a month depending on the month. It is entirely possible to save more money in Nakhon every month, but I like to spend a fair bit of free time socializing and spending weekends at the beach in Khanom or on trips to the islands.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a shared house with friends. We each pay 2,500 per month. It is nice having a house compared to an apartment or condo because we are able to have a little yard with barbecue space.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I bought a motorbike when I arrived for 6,000. It's an older bike with an out-of-date green book but it gets me from A to B. It would be fairly difficult to get around the city without one. There are a few places you can rent bikes monthly from between 1.500-2.000 a month. There are songtaews, taxis, and Grab. However, with Grab, it can be difficult to find a ride sometimes at night. I would say I pay between 1-2K a month on petrol and general bike maintenance.

Utility bills

We take turns paying for the internet, which is around 400 a month. Our electric bill ranges between 250-500 baht a person depending on the month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Nakhon has everything you need as far as supermarket shopping is concerned. There is a Big C, Tesco, Robinsons and Central Plaza, as well as Thai markets throughout the city. As in any Thai city, the food here is wonderful and fairly cheap. There are also a wide variety of Western options from pizza, KFC, Macdonalds and also Middle Eastern and Indian options that are much pricier than Thai options. I'd say my food budget ranges from between 5-7K a month depending on the month.

Nightlife and drinking

I moved into Nakhon during the Covid shutdown so I haven't been able to experience a ton of the nightlife that Nakhon has to offer. There is a big group of expats that live in the town so there is always something going on like football, ultimate frisbee and trips to the surrounding waterfalls. Sad to say that the thing I spend the most on is having a few beers with friends at their houses or up at the beach.

Books, computers

This is something I don't spend any money on as I already own my computer. There is a book club/share in town where people trade books they read back and forth between each other at no cost.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

You can live a very good life and have a great time in Nakhon on a standard teaching salary.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

The obvious answer in the incredible Thai food. You can eat just about any Thai dish for under 100 Baht.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

It all depends on your lifestyle and what luxuries you wish to have. You can live very comfortably here for around 30-35K a month. Nakhon is really a hidden gem of the south. It's only about 1.5 hour motorbike drive to get to amazing beaches such as Sichon, Loma and Khanom, and you can make it to Samui, KPH and Koh Tao within four hours - including ferry time.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Erik. That's one very positive cost of living survey and it sounds like you really enjoy life. Nakhon Si Thammarat seems like a great place to live and work and as you say, a salary of around 40,000 baht is enough to enjoy all it has to offer, whether it's eating out, zipping around on your motorcycle or enjoying a few drinks with friends.   


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 372 total

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